Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunrise & Sunset

We all enjoy experiencing beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
By Rick Sammon Published in Quick Fix
Sunrise & Sunset


If the contrast range is greater than about four stops, you'll need HDR to bring out all the detail in the scene. However, before we get into the technique, here's an important thing to remember: HDR can ruin the mood of a scene.

I could have used HDR to open up the shadows and tone down the highlights in this photograph, which I took in Mount Rainier, Washington. However, that would have destroyed the mood of the scene. The strong shadows and the reflection in the lake "made" the picture for me. So use HDR wisely, and remember that the most important thing about a picture is the mood or feeling it conveys.


Here's an HDR image of the St. John's Pier in St. Augustine, Florida. I added the drop shadow and type in Photoshop CS5
just for fun and to offer an idea for perhaps an e-card that you can send to family and friends.


I shot HDR to ensure that the upside-down heart shape in the scene was captured. Yes, I could have taken a wider range of exposures to see more into the shadows, which would have shown more detail in the shadow areas, but I didn't want the viewer to miss the heart. Plus, I liked the shadows. Remember, shadows can be your friend. Shadows add a sense of depth and dimension to a picture, and shadows are the soul of a photograph.


I've written several articles on HDR for Digital Photo magazine; you can check them out at For now, here's some basic HDR info:
  • Use a tripod.
  • Don't change the aperture.Use a self-timer or cable release so you don't shake the camera during exposures.
  • Make sure you take enough exposures to capture the highlights and shadows in the scene.
  • Process your images using HDR software like HDRsoft's Photomatix or Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro.


I'll leave you with one of my favorite sunset photographs, which I took in Rajasthan, India, and a reminder: Always try to get the best possible in-camera exposure. Expose for the highlights. It will save you lots of time processing your images in the digital darkroom.

Rick Sammon, leads workshops and gives seminars around the world. He has been nominated for the Photoshop Hall of Fame. Visit Rick at

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